Hearing an album of Bach arias sung by a countertenor may not be essential for every listener. Many of the high arias from Bach's cantatas weren't the kind of operatic pieces that called for a muscular male voice comparable to those that have tackled Handel's arias in similar collections, and Bach, at least much of the time, wrote for female vocalists. If you enjoy countertenor singing, however, this release by Canadian singer Daniel Taylor may be the Bach album of choice. Taylor succeeds precisely because he doesn't try to hit you over the head with acrobatics. His voice is rich, smooth, and lyrical, and it is deployed to maximum effect in music that seems to reflect the almost sensuous approach Bach took to the depiction of religious contentment. The duet "Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten," from the Cantata No. 78, "Jesu der du meine Seele," in which Taylor is joined by soprano Agnes Zsigovics, is an addictive group of pearly arabesques. Taylor's most innovative move here is his departure from the usual lineup-of-arias program, with perhaps one or two instrumental selections included as entr'actes. Of the album's 11 pieces, no fewer than five are instrumental sinfonias or choral pieces, with Montreal's Theatre of Early Muisc and the Choir of the Theatre of Early Music taking an almost equal role with Taylor and serving, the way the program is ordered, to set a meditative mood that is intensified by his singing. The overall effect is lovely and increasingly hypnotic as you listen longer. This major-label release is something of a milestone for Canada's enthusiastic contingent of Baroque performers, who have accumulated technical skills but not always the nerve to break out of conventional ways of doing things. Taylor and his cohorts here are fresh and technically facile in equal measure. Beautifully recorded, and strongly recommended. Notes and texts are in German, French, and English.
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